Sitawa Namwalie isn’t just one of Kenya’s finest poets and playwrights. She is also a fabulous performer and storyteller who will prove this tonight at the Kwa Wangwana Restaurant and Wine Garden in Lavington.
Branching out as a solo performer, Sitawa will perform Taking my father home under the direction of Wanjiru Mwawuganga who has also directed Too Early for Birds’ Brazen and shows by the LAM Sisterhood.
Sitawa has given a number of solo performances in the past, such as her TedX talk in Lavington and her storytelling about her unique installation entitled Our Grandmother’s Miniskirt: A People’s History in Photographs and Stories.
But that was before she established her own company, Salene Productions with support from the HEVA Fund which has a mandate to support local cultural industries.
Taking my father home will be a one-woman performance that combines poetry and story with music composed especially for this show by two multitalented musicians, Nasambu Barasa who sing in Kiluhya and Kiswahili and Samuel Mbaluka who like Nasambu plays guitar and Litungu (Luhya harp) as well as percussions.
“They will be combining traditional Luhya tunes with elements of modern musical sounds,” says Sitawa who often performs with traditional musicians but these two have composed a whole musical score to accompany her show.
Sitawa has always been a poet at heart. Nonetheless, she majored in Botany, Zoology and Environmental studies, receiving two university degrees before she realised her primary passion was actually for poetry.
But hers is a poetry that addresses both personal as well as political themes.
Cut of my tongue was her first major collection of poems that she both published and performed. Then came Silence is a Woman which took on several iterations, given which ever poems (drawn from her larger pool of poetry) she chose to share at assorted venues.
But in the past, she’d performed with other performing artists like Muthoni Garland, Melvin Alusa and Aleya Kassam. But now, while she has musical accompaniment, her story is her own based in two acts. The first reflects on how she lost connection with her culture.
The second is all about ‘taking my father home’. It continues the story of one cosmopolitan Kenya woman who is thoroughly caught up in her busy life. But then her father dies and in taking him home, she’s compelled to realise how essential it is to reconnect with her people’s tradition and culture.